Academic and Career Choices – Skills May Not Equal Passions

map-and-compass-150x150 For many people it may take two years or more to find out a hard lesson in life. What you are good at, your skills and abilities may not equal your interests and your passions. This is one reason many college students change their major halfway through college and a life lesson everyone should learn.

Let us say you started college on a path to a degree in mathematics. You chose this path because you have always done well at math. It seemed logical and reasonable to follow a college academic path in something you were good at. A few semesters down the road you are bored out of your mind with your classes. Why? You don’t really like mathematics.

Often it is a high school guidance counselor or parents who put us on a college academic path. “You are really good at xxx so you should pursue a career in it”. The problem is just because you are good at something does not mean it is the right academic path or career path for you.

This is a potentially academic and career ending trap. You can not be successful at something you are not interested in or you do not feel passionate about. You may make it through four years of college and get your degree in mathematics. You graduate and get a job in a related field and years later you realize what a mistake it was. You don’t like your job, you are frustrated and angry at the choice you made. You want to start all over again but you have a huge student loan debt to pay off. Nothing is worse than getting up each day and going to a job you do not like.

Find Your Passion

heart_clipart So how do you avoid this trap? Find your passion, find what interests you and pursue it. Look at your skills and abilities and see if they align with your interests. If they do consider yourself blessed because you are likely on the path to success. If they do not align you need to take a serious look at the path you are on.

What is your passion? To answer this write down a list of 5-10 things you really enjoy doing. It may be writing, helping other people, programming, working with you hands, figuring out problems, your list is probably endless. Look over this list and narrow it down to ones that you can translate into a career.

Next create a list of 5-10 skills and abilities that you have that can relate to a possible career. Look at an academic catalog to help you create your list. Be honest with yourself about your abilities. You may really wish you were good at science, but if you are not then it is going to be a very hard path for you.

Now take your two lists and look for alignments. Do any of your skills and abilities align with your passions? If so these may be paths you should consider for your academic and career path. If you do not have alignments, look at your list of passions and interests and pick something that your truly are passionate about.

Define Your Goals

happyfaces “So what do you want the be when you grow up?” How many times did you hear this? Translated to your present stage of life this ask “What are your goals in life?’. Knowing what your goals are will help you fine tune your choices. Write down 5-10 goals you have for your life. Think of your life as a roadmap and these and places you want to go. Your goals should be realistic as well. I want to own a home, I want to buy a new car, I want to travel, I want a family, and so on.

There is no doubt throughout life your goals will change either due to your own personal beliefs or circumstances. This is why your goals should not be the ultimate driving force in making academic and career choices. Goals will give you insight into what is important to you.

You may find that your goals do not align with your passions and your abilities. If this is the case you may need to reconsider your goals. Sometimes people set goals that are too high or unrealistic. You may want to aim for the stars, but setting goals you can never achieve will lead you down a path of frustration.

Charting Your Academic and Career Path

pinonmapWhat I have outlined here is not a clear cut path to academic and career nirvana. Do not expect the stars to suddenly align and you will instantly know what you want to do for the rest of your life. If it were only that simple. The purpose of this article is to get you to think.

As I said earlier nothing is worse than getting up each day and going to a job you hate. If you are like most people you have probably already had a few of those jobs. Just as you can not succeed academically at something you do not like, you will not likely succeed in a career you do not like.

It is not enough to have a passion and pursue it. It is like taking a road trip without a map. You know where you want to go, but you do not know how to get there. In the same way you chart a course of classes that allows you to reach your goal of becoming a college graduate, you can apply the same principle to your career and your life. While it is impossible to realistically chart a roadmap for your entire life, you should at least know where the next couple of destinations are.

Charting a path is fairly simple. You are here at point A and you want to get to point B. Your path is knowing what you need to do to get from point A to point B. Point A is where you are now in college. Point B should be graduating college with a degree in something you enjoy, something you are passionate about. Continue charting to point C, your career and what steps you need to take to get from point B to point C. Never think that all you have to do is graduate and the rest will fall into place. When you graduate the real work of getting to point C begins.

In the course of your college life and your career your roadmap will change. You will need to constantly update your points and the paths to get to them. Going through college and into your career without a roadmap, without any points, without a path to follow will get you nowhere real fast.

Never Give Up

finishline Some people have difficulties in defining their passions and their interests. You may feel you are young and have your entire life ahead of you so charting a course now does not seem realistic. The reality is this is the best time to chart your course. For most going to college is a one shot deal. It is expensive and time consuming. Down the road it may not be possible to go back to college and pursue a new career.

This is why it is so important to know what your passions and interests are now so you can align your academics to them. At no other period in your life will four years have such an impact in determining the rest of your life. You should make realistic and smart choices with your academics and your career.

If you find you are on the wrong path now or in the future, do not give up. You still have time to make changes that will allow you to pursue your passions and reach your goals. If your goal is finding academic and career nirvana, forget what your counselors told you, forget what your parents told you. Look deep into your own heart and listen.